I analyzed the websites of the top 25 Universities according to U.S. News and came up with what I determine to be the best five of the lot. I considered criteria such as the overall look and feel, responsive design, consistent branding, and usability. From there, I’ve listed my five favorites starting with the best:
This website is stunning. The images, the fonts, the styles, the navigation. All of it is spot on.
Simple elegance. Harvard’s site has a very nice social channel highlight feature on the home page. Navigation from the home page is intuitive and comprehensive.
On the day I viewed this website, there was inclement weather in DC. This website has a nice emergency notice area that fit in nicely on each page of the website. The home page is simple with news and events listings and easy navigation to inner pages of the website.
Nice clean website with great use of mega menus.
Although the header of this website lacks life, I was impressed by the overall home page layout and consistency of the inner Stanford websites. The web services group updates the designs every 4 months with Drupal frameworks to keep the designs fresh.
In looking through the websites of the top 25 universities, here are a few things I was surprised to discover:
- Only 44% of the top 25 universities use responsive design.
- Drupal is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) and is used in at least 36% of the websites
- Most of the main universities sites were developed in Drupal or a commercial CMS while many of the inner websites (programs, research, news) use the WordPress CMS.
- Not one of the top 25 universities has a consistent design used across all inner websites. Vanderbilt, Brown, and Stanford came the closest.
Another blog did a similar study and here is their top 10 list.